The highlight, for me–the part I spent the most time on:
5) 2013 may have been one of the worst years ever for crime in The Bahamas. What are your thoughts and suggestions?
I’m not sure I buy the popular semi-hysteria about crime. As a social scientist I tend to stand back and look at local situations as objectively as possible. Here are the facts that strike me about The Bahamas in 2013.
1) We have a population problem. It’s not a problem of overpopulation; far from it. It’s a problem of population distribution. Almost a quarter of a million people live in eighty square miles of land. The population density that results—3,125 people per square mile—places intolerable pressure on all of us. But it’s unnecessary pressure, because the whole territory of The Bahamas totals approximately 5400 square miles, and our whole population totals 354,000; the population density of our whole nation is a mere 66 people per square mile. To me, it’s a no-brainer; we HAVE to create and encourage the development of centres of population around our archipelago and establish means of encouraging Nassauvians to move there. End of story. But:
2) We have an economic problem. For the last twenty years if not more, our governments have placed more emphasis on the attraction of foreign direct investment in various forms than on any single local developmental initiative. The result is that we all today confuse the construction of huge resorts with actual development, and we castigate our leaders for spending pretty well any money on Bahamians at all, put by the fact that such spending is an investment in the Bahamian nation. The landscape that has been produced is a landscape in which the fabulously wealthy of the world live behind illegally high walls in gated communities five driving minutes away from areas of high population density and virtually no amenities. We have allowed our educational services to stagnate, so that we are still providing the majority of our citizens with the kind of education that was appropriate for the first ten years of our independence, but with a deterioration in its quality.
We quibble about whether we can “afford” a university but have no problems in assigning more money from our national budget to “assist” the latest multimillion dollar resort complex in its development than we assign to the College of The Bahamas. In other words, our country, which is still the wealthiest in CARICOM, has real economic problems when it comes to how it spends its money, and on what. Rather than investing in the means to develop the whole of this large, land-rich, stunningly beautiful, strategically significant nation, we waste far too much on projects that harm the general population without generating any return.
In this scenario, crime is inevitable, and the violent crime that we have come to fear this year is depressingly predictable. I have been convinced for most of my adult life, from the moment I set foot in a classroom to teach the younger brothers of young men who had struck it rich working for major and minor drug lords, that some of the best minds in The Bahamas go into crime. The young men who are killing themselves and others in the process are part of our national resource, and we have worked hard to discard them like paper. They are turning their minds to making space for themselves because no one has made any room for them. We want them to work as construction workers at the bottom of a hierarchy that still places whiteness and riches at its top, and we expect them to be grateful. At the same time, we live in a society with open borders and a general resistance to spending the kind of money and time needed to police those borders adequately, and we also live on the edge of the most schizophrenic society that ever lived—a society that says that all men are equal of one side of its mouth, and out of the other side says that all people are equally good targets for bullets. The absurd American Arm the Good Guy scenario does not work, because which individual really believes he’s the bad guy? And so:
violent crime, criminals with automatic weapons, and sensational headlines that sell newspapers but really do very little to present the problem sensibly.
To sum up: I don’t buy the “worst year” idea in terms of crime. I’m not sure that 2013 was the worst year; I tend to divide what I read in Bahamian discourse on these sorts of things by four and digest the result. We have the crime that we should expect for the population size and density that we have on New Providence. It is not at all surprising. It’s frightening, yes, but that’s because our city is too small to absorb it. The solutions are there. It’s a mathematical problem whose solution can be simple. We need to act to make it happen.